When my wife and I started dating, nearly nine years ago, I had been mostly out of the loop with hit tv shows. But since she was a high school teacher, she needed some way to stay awake while grading, so she always knew the best shows. One of those, way back then in its infancy, was Bones.
Over the years, she’s kept a keen eye on the teamnfrom the Jeffersonian, following the show’s plot twists and turns, finally seeing Booth and Bones realize they were perfect for one another, getting married, having children, etc. I checked in on the cast whenever I get a chance, but in the last couple of years I became a bit more of a true fan.
One of the things that I have always liked about this show is the way it manages to bring Booth’s Catholic faith into discussion. Of course in its initial few seasons, any time Booth mentioned anything about his faith, Brennan was quick to dismiss it. She was after all a scientist, and a world-class one at that, so she was only concerned with evidence. Time and time again, the old lie of a battle between science and religion was brought to the fore. What ended up happening almost every time was that both Booth and Brennan had to admit that they each had a little bit of an adjustment to make. Booth had to look for evidence more often, and Brennan had to at least think about the possibility that some things don’t follow the scientific method.
While of course faith and science battled it out quite often, the scenes I always enjoyed more were moments when Booth got to interact with a priest, go into a Church, have occasion to pray, etc. When people close to him died, his faith in the Resurrection would come to the surface.
But what made it all great, and not off-putting was that for Booth, his Catholicism was real. And by that, I don’t mean he was a saint, or that he followed all of the rules. Rather, he was shown as probably what most Catholics look like in real life: he was conflicted, not always sure what he believed or why. But somehow at the root of it all, he was oriented toward the Church, and wanted to do better.
Booth was never the kind of man that thought he was perfect. He knew he should and could do better, and he also saw the capacity for others to make better choices and have a better life. He hated betting against people, and was hard-pressed to give up on those who everyone else wanted to abandon as lost causes.
Perhaps the most realistic way in which Booth’s Catholicism came up in Bones, though, was the way he understood marriage and sexuality. For Brennan, marriage was merely anthropological.
But for Booth, it was about the spirituality, the bond, and it was somehow always tied up with religion. And yet, despite this sort of intuited sense that marriage was about more than just the two people involved, they didn’t marry in a Church. This is, often times, what real Catholic people do. They may not have the best reasons for it, and it’s unfortunate. But it’s real. Let’s not forget also that Booth and Bones lived together before they were married, and had a child together, after all.
So Seeley Booth wasn’t a model of sanctity, but he gave us a raw picture of a guy trying to do the right thing. He upheld fidelity to his wife, and was a great father, and an all-around great friend and hard-worker. Booth knew the importance of self-sacrifice, and often put his own life on the line to protect not just his family, but anyone around him.
At times he and Brennan discuss having more children and this season there was some discussion about Booth needing a vasectomy. Again, and in an odd way, Booth’s Catholic roots spring to the surface.
He was aware, no doubt, that the Church is against contraception, but didn’t seem to have a problem with using contraception in his marriage. Yet when his wife suggested a vasectomy, Booth rejects it outright. There’s discussion about how this was forbidden for a Catholic, but it’s Booth’s sense of the importance of possibly having more children, and the adventure that would entail that seems to drive his decision.
In the final analysis Booth was not the perfect Catholic. But few of us are. I know for sure that what I most liked about Booth and what I’ll presumably miss for a while (because tv shows rarely can write a good Catholic character) was his never-ending discussion about his yearning for something transcendent, something beyond just tge ordinary.
So, when Brennan would talk about analysis of crime scenes, and the gritty details of her scientific study, Booth was never really impressed.
But discussions of real beauty, of delightful food, of passionate love, the marvel of children and the great good of a game of baseball, these sort of intrinsic goods which had their own value beyond the quantifiable or logical…these were a few of Booth’s favorite things. They speak, albeit in muted tones, of the sacramental world-view.
Here’s perhaps the best example of what I mean, from way back in 2007:
FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth: Here we are, all of us, basically alone, separate creatures, just circling each other, all searching for that slightest hint of a real connection. Some look in the wrong places, some they just give up hope because in their mind they’re thinking “Oh there’s nobody out there for me,” but all of us, we keep trying over and over again. Why? Because every once in a while… every once in a while, two people meet and there’s that spark, and yes, Bones, he’s handsome and she’s beautiful and maybe that’s all they see at first, but making love… making love… that’s when two people become one.
Dr. Temperance Brennan: It is scientifically impossible for two objects to occupy the same space.
FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth: Yeah, but what’s important is we try. And when we do it right, we get close.
Dr. Temperance Brennan: To what? Breaking the laws of physics?
FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth: Yeah, Bones – a miracle.
That is So close to the Theology of the Body. Booth didn’t know theology, at least not in any comprehensive way, but he knew the deep yearning of the human heart, and he knew that it had an answer. Ultimately, he would find the answer to that call in his relationship with Brennan.
Booth, you’ll be missed!